Whether we gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving in November or get together at Christmas in December, the holidays are associated with homecoming. Assuming that there’s even a place you can call “home” in these perilous times.
Some of us don’t have easy access to family members due to geographical challenges. We might be one kind of close, but we ain’t that other kind of close. I’m in California while my sister is on the East Coast; my brother and his wife and youngest daughter are in Europe; and my eldest niece and her husband are in the Pacific Northwest. Although I love my family, there’s no way I’m enduring a TSA pat-down and a cramped economy flight anywhere out of state within a few days of Thanksgiving, only to wade into a sea of blood feuds on a desert shore of dry turkey. (Just kidding about the blood feuds.)
In the absence of family, one turns to friends at this time of year — assuming one actually has friends and gets along with them well enough to break bread together. There’s a fairly recent and pretty obvious coinage used to describe such an event: Friendsgiving. Some may quibble about the actual date of Friendsgiving. Is it a day before or a day after Thanksgiving? Or is it, as I perceive of it, the kind of Thanksgiving I generally have on that fourth Thursday in November — a feast in the company of non-relatives I care about?
FRIENDS, NOT FRIENDS
There are other questions about Friendsgiving: Are family members welcome? What about friends of friends? Does it have anything to do with Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe? And the answers are, in order: It depends on how friendly you are with them. Sure, if they’re vouched for and bring any appropriate food or drink other than the horror of mashed sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top. And I sure as hell hope not. I don’t care how popular the sitcom Friends is in syndication or on streaming services. The entitled antics of those narcissistic losers are enough to make me gag on my cranberry sauce.
Speaking of the culinary elements of a celebration that revolves around a massive dinner, must the Friendsgiving meal be vegan-friendly to accommodate those of us who adhere to a diet free of any animal products? I guess it’s all about the guest list. On the other utensil, my buddy Mark throws an annual post-Thanksgiving soiree (usually on the Sunday after standard Turkey Day) that in past years he dubbed the “Stragglers’ Thanksgiving Vegan Potluck.” The name of the event says it all, and the food each attendee contributes should be in line with the theme. In case you don’t get the message, the invitation notes that the invitees are either vegan, vegan-adjacent (which is up for interpretation), or good friends of the host. In case you’re unsure about what constitutes vegan, you don’t bring anything remotely dairy, even when the moo-juice is baked in. Mark, his fellow vegans, and countless cows will thank you.
HOME IS WHERE THE SPROUTS ARE
As happy as I am to be going to Mark’s potluck again, it doesn’t really settle my big conundrum about Thanksgiving Day itself: Where’s “home” for the holiday when you live in two cities like yours truly? I am pleased to say that I do have Thanksgiving dinner options in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. So the big decision comes down to two elements: Where will I be stationed in the latter part of November? And will one of the possible Thanksgiving destinations feature a specific dish so good that, depending on where I am, I’d be willing to drive six hours to eat it?
If you think I’m kidding about the lure of certain menu options, you haven’t tasted Rob’s chestnut stuffing, Tanya’s sautéed Brussels sprouts, or Heather’s apple cranberry pie — all of which get me salivating at the thought of them. I suppose you could also factor in the likelihood of the moistest turkey, but that’s generally guesswork based on a bunch of variables.
Putting aside the gustatory delights that can await us at the buffet table, the true map to where we spend Thanksgiving is the one that shows the presence of people we love at road’s end. If I’m going to be surrounded by friends, family members, and colleagues, I’m in — wherever it happens to be. I remain grateful for those in my life who lend an ear, offer support, teach me new things, make me laugh, and don’t groan too much at my attempted witticisms. Whether near or far, they get my thanks.
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on “Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast,” via GABnet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster